TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Alex Bell and the Garfield Assassination

Re: Alex Bell and the Garfield Assassination
5 Jun 2006 09:36:39 -0700

R. J. Brown wrote:

> Some people ask me "Why bother to collect old newspapers? If I want to
> read dry, boring history, I can just get a history book." My answer to
> this is that historical events. The only way they can be
> re-discovered, is through reading original newspapers published during
> the time of the event.

Old newspapers offer far more information than given in a history
book. They tell of the times.

Even a quick glimpse at old newspapers shows that times actually
haven't changed very much. Take a newspaper 50 years old -- the
arguments about politics and social issues haven't changed very much.
The claims of technology aren't new.

One would think we in the technology business would have no interest
at all in old newspapers, after all, we're working with stuff that
simply didn't exist back then. But that's not true.

The actual physical technology -- say of making a microchip -- is new.
But technology doesn't exist in a vacuum. It must co-exist with
consumer preferences, social policy and custom, and economics. Human
nature does not change. Many of the social issues for and against new
technology are the same as 50 years ago. A read of the arguments is
like reading a modern paper. Finding investment capital to move a
development out of the lab into mass production is no different than
50 years ago. The challenge of marketing and consumer acceptance
isn't different either beyond perhaps the style of the outer enclosure

Many technical gadgets were envisioned many years ago. Some were
actually developed but not applied because of high cost. (Many ESS
features were doable on crossbar but it was expensive.)

An advtg of studying old articles is that one is armed with good
responses and arguments to today's issues. Another advtg is that
hindsight is 20/20. Today we have that hindsight when looking at the
past to see what worked and what did not and why.

Politics is very much the same. We have cantankerous reactionary
leaders and head-in-the-clouds liberal leaders; only the names have
changed. Politics is very much a part of technology as much as
technical people like to think they're above it.

There's a lot of erroneous conventional wisdom that newspapers mock.
For example, during WW II, newspapers published considerable criticism
of FDR, his staff, and his strategies for prosecuting the war. The
"good ole days" weren't so good.

One problem with having old newspapers is that physical hard copies
are bulky and extremely fragile (newsprint wasn't meant to last).
Most old stuff is on microfilm but that loses all colors and photos
are very muddy, plus it's sequential access only.

The New York Times has been put on digital and some libraries have
access to the database for free (others can get at it by paying an al a
carte fee). Fascinating stuff.

The traditional newspaper is losing readership to the Internet. I'm
terribly disappointed in this. Despite what Internet proponents say,
the quality of info in a tradtional major newspaper is far superior to
what's on the web. Full service newspaper feature articles contain a
great amount of detail, far more than a web article does. They're
written and editing by professional journalists using strict
standards. Of course they're not always perfect or right, but at
least the journalistic standards keeps their accuracy high. Too many
web articles are written by amateurs repeating conventional wisdom
that may not be accurate.

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